Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Free Ryan Langerhans

If I was in AAA with your talent I'd be barking too.

Every season, we see a few players start the season in the minor leagues who are clearly better than some bench players currently seeing time in the show. Fangraphs already did a piece on Matt Murton, who is tearing up AAA with the Rockies' affiliate in that league. I'd like to look at a guy that encompasses what I love in a 4th outfielder. Much like the Brewers' Chris Duffy, I like a 4th outfielder who has the ability to play plus defense at all 3 OF positions, has speed, and decent on base skills. Ryan Langerhans is an even better example of this kind of player.

Langerhans first came up with Atlanta in 2002, but didn't receive any sort of regular playing time until 2005. In his first two real seasons in the big leagues, Langerhans put up 3.5 wins in 641 PAs, based upon roughly league average hitting (-2.0 bRAA) and amazing defense, posting a +21.3 UZR between all 3 OF positions, with most of his playing time seen in LF. Unfortunately for both Langerhans and Braves fans, he completely tanked in 2007, playing for three different teams (Atlanta, and then Oakland and Washington following midseason trades) and putting up a combined line of .167/.272/.305, for an abysmal .262 wOBA, worth -13.8 bRAA. Combine that with some poor fielding in CF (-6.5 UZR in 40 games), and Langerhans put up one of the worst seasons in recent memory, worth -1.3 wins. As such, he has been relegated to bench and minor league duty since then.

Langerhans started 2008 in the minors, showing great on-base skill in Columbus (AAA), walking 40 times in 256 PAs, for a 11.7% BB% and posting a .310/.418/.446 line, good for a .390 wOBA. In addition, Langerhans showed the ability to steal bases, with 12 SBs against only 3 CSs, as well as play good defense in CF, with a +2 TotalZone rating in the short span. This performance would lead to a call-up, and in 73 games (139 PA), Langerhans showed the ability to play in the Majors once again, putting up a 4.5 UZR and 2.8 bRAA to be worth 0.8 wins in his short time. The signing of Adam Dunn last winter made Langerhans expendable, however, and Langerhans has spent 2009 in the minors, this time with Syracuse, the new AAA affiliate of the Nats. He's continued to show good on-base skills, with a .415 OBP in 40 PAs.

As Dave Cameron mentions regarding Murton, there's no way there are 750 players better than Ryan Langerhans in the major leagues. CHONE projects Langerhans to be an excellent fielder either in LF or CF (+14 or +9). The various projection systems see Langerhans as a slightly below average hitter, with wOBAs varying from .324 (ZiPS) to .330 (CHONE). With that kind of performance sustained over 600 PAs, that's approximately a 3 win player. Somebody needs to go out and get this guy and put him on a roster, whether it's as a starter or a 4th outfielder, and whoever does it will be glad they did.

Minor League Data from

Major League Data and Projections from

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